Former Gov. Paul LePage speaks at the Republican state convention on Saturday, April 30, 2022, in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Big losses for Republicans at the top of Maine’s ticket in 2022 were out of the control of the state party, Maine GOP leaders said Tuesday.

“The top of our ticket appears to have been influenced by events beyond the control of a state political party,” Demi Kouzounas, the party’s chair, and Jason Savage, its executive director, wrote in an email to Republicans on Tuesday.

It represents the first public attempt for Maine Republicans to make sense of an election they had high hopes for. Gov. Janet Mills won a second term over former Gov. Paul LePage and Democrats held both congressional seats here, including the conservative-leaning 2nd District, and held both houses of the Legislature.

The party is still attempting to “understand what happened” in this month’s election, Kouzounas and Savage wrote. Typically, the party conducts autopsies of their campaigns for the state committee. When it did so in 2018, it attributed former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s loss to Rep. Jared Golden of the 2nd District in part to him lacking the ability to generate grassroots energy.

Though it was not mentioned in the statement, the Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn federal abortion rights seemed to galvanize Democrats nationwide. While it dropped well behind the economy on the list of major issues that voters cared about in pre-election polling, exit polls showed it to be a major factor alongside concerns about democracy.

The statement underscores a tough defeat for the Maine GOP, one that led to anger and a search for answers from Republicans across the state. A party spokesperson did not respond to a follow-up question.

However, Brent Littlefield, a strategist who worked for both LePage and Poliquin, told WVOM last week that he had a “gut ache” that many conservative voters did not come out because they think elections are rigged. That false narrative has been pushed nationally by former President Donald Trump.

“I don’t get it,” said Robert Polo, a 67-year-old Republican from Carmel. “The only thing I can think of is Republicans didn’t get out and vote.”

Big wins for the Democrats came from strong candidates running good campaigns and speaking openly about issues impacting Mainers, Maine Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Stern said in response to the Republican statement.

“This didn’t happen by accident,” Stern said. “Our leaders have a track record of success and Maine people recognize that.”

LePage and Poliquin had been elected twice before. While the 2nd District was always seen as the more contested race, both offices had been considered in play during an unpopular Joe Biden presidency and historic backlashes against the president’s party in midterms.

Many voters said they felt repelled by LePage. Communities that once supported him heavily turned against him. He was trounced by Mills in the Portland suburbs. In the 2nd District, many LePage supporters chose Golden over Poliquin as the former congressman saw a poor showing even in red areas after a campaign in which the two Republicans often appeared together.

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